The Palestinian Authority wants to start resettling Palestinian refugees from Lebanon in the Palestinian areas as soon as a final peace deal has been signed, reported the Jerusalem Post, quoting a Palestinian source.
"Palestinian President Yasser Arafat wants to give these refugees priority, since their situation in Lebanon is becoming more and more difficult," the source said.
He wants to invite them to return to the Palestinian areas as a first step, he said.
"The refugees in Lebanon live in appalling conditions and may be used by Lebanon and Syria for their own negotiations with Israel," the officials explained.
The Palestinian source said it was unlikely that Arafat could sign a comprehensive agreement on refugees at Camp David, since he will not want to give up on the right of return, or limit this right to a certain number at this stage.
Israel agrees to permit a certain number of refugees to return to Israel to be reunited with their families, said the paper.
"Arafat will need some time to send his emissaries to the refugee camps in the Arab world and in the Palestinian areas to explain the realities and rally support for any compromise he reaches with Israel," Palestinian political analyst Riyad Malki explained.
Israel and the Palestinians will probably sign an agreement on most issues, while leaving discussions on some difficult details for later, even if some understanding has been reached on these details, the source said.
This would enable the PA to declare a state in September with Israeli approval, another source added.
PA sources close to the negotiations said Israel and the Palestinians are looking for a formula which will give Arafat the ability to claim the right of return, while actually limiting this right to a certain number of refugees who could return for family reunification, said the paper.
The problem would mainly be solved through an international compensation fund to which Israel will contribute, and a gradual right of return to the Palestinian areas.
PA sources close to the negotiations said that prior to the Camp David summit, the sides discussed such a solution but did not speak about numbers, added the paper.
"The Israelis understand that we need to satisfy the people's demand for the right of return, but they do not want us to actually implement it," one Palestinian source said.
Palestinian officials said they understand that it will be extremely difficult for Israel to agree to settle large numbers of Palestinians inside Israel.
"Once the refugees learn the realities of the peace deal, most will understand that they are better off taking compensation and returning to the Palestinian areas," a PA source said.
However West Bank PLO mainstream 'Fateh' leader, Marwan Barghouthi, said Saturday Israel was wrong to believe that the right of return was for sale. "Fateh will hold a demonstration in Nablus on Sunday against US and Israeli pressure on Arafat to compromise on his red lines," he told the paper - Albawaba.com
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )